Greek farmer on trial for rape, murder of US scientist

RETHYMNO, GREECE (AFP) - A Greek farmer claimed he was "possessed by demons" when he raped and killed an American scientist last year, a police officer told a murder trial in Crete on Tuesday (Oct 13).

The body of Professor Suzanne Eaton, a molecular biologist at the Max Planck Institute at Dresden University, was found near the city of Chania on the Greek island in July 2019.

Yiannis Paraskakis, a married father of two, is on trial for manslaughter, rape and illegal weapons possession.

A police officer who interrogated Paraskakis told the court Paraskakis confessed after six hours of questioning.

"He said he was possessed by demons giving him orders," he said.

Prof Eaton, 59, had gone out hiking on the day of her murder, leaving behind her mobile phone, the police said.

The suspect ran over the scientist on a rural road, put her in the trunk of the car and drove to an abandoned World War II bunker where he sexually assaulted her and dumped her body, according to police.

She was found by cave explorers six days later.

"This was a world-class biologist," said lawyer Vasso Pantazi of the Oakland-born scientist.

"In terms of virus contagiousness and vaccines, you can understand how useful she would have been today."

The 28-year-old suspect, a priest's son, had been held in prison at the town of Tripoli on the Greek mainland, but was transferred to the Cretan town of Rethymno for the trial.

Prof Eaton was married to British scientist Anthony Hyman. The couple has two sons.

In a statement released after her death, the Max Planck Institute said it was "deeply shocked and disturbed by this tragic event".

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